The two largest factions in Armenia’s parliament on Wednesday denied reaching any agreements with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and said they oppose his efforts to force fresh parliamentary elections in December.
Parliamentary leaders of the Republican (HHK) and Prosperous Armenia (BHK) parties said that during their overnight talks with him they proposed that the elections be held in May.
Pashinian initiated the urgent talks after accusing the HHK, the BHK and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) of conspiring to prevent the dissolution of the current parliament which he said “does not represent the Armenian people.” Thousands of his angry supporters surrounded the parliament building in Yerevan as he met with senior lawmakers from the three parties.
After the two-hour talks Pashinian told the crowd that they assured him that they will not attempt to install another prime minister if he resigns to pave the way for the snap elections. He said he will therefore tender his resignation later this month so that the polls are held “in the first half of December.”
HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov insisted, however, that his party led by former President Serzh Sarkisian reached no “final agreements” with the premier. “The issue of holding elections in December is not on our agenda,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Sharmazanov argued that the parliamentary forces need more time to prepare for the vote and enact anti-fraud amendments to the Electoral Code requiring the Council of Europe’s approval.
The premier said the previous night that the elections must take place “as soon as possible” because of the “political crisis” in Armenia.
Armen Ashotian, another senior HHK figure who also participated in the talks, said the Republicans told Pashinian that they will not nominate any prime-ministerial candidates if he agrees to have the vote held in May. The latter rejected the proposal, according to Ashotian.
“We also made that proposal but the prime minister insisted that the elections must be held in December,” said Gevorg Petrosian, a senior BHK parliamentarian. “In this sense, there was no agreement.”
The BHK, which is led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian, and Dashnaktsutyun have until now been part of Armenia’s de facto governing coalition. Pashinian on Tuesday sacked six government ministers affiliated with the two parties, accusing them of cutting secret deals with the former ruling HHK.
Under Armenia’s constitution, early elections can be called only if the prime minister steps down and lawmakers fail to elect his or her successor in the next two weeks.
Asked whether the HHK, which has the largest parliamentary faction, will field a prime-ministerial candidate if Pashinian does resign this month, Sharmazanov said: “We didn’t discuss such issues. Let him resign, we’ll then see.”
Sharmazanov also said that Pashinian will again visit the parliament later on Wednesday. “We will try to understand what is going to happen now and what can be solved,” added the HHK spokesman.
Meanwhile, President Armen Sarkissian and parliament speaker Ara Babloyan discussed the latest developments in a phone call reported by the presidential press office. A statement by the office said Sarkissian, who is currently visiting the United States, urged all political factions to be “restrained and tolerant towards each other.”
The largely ceremonial president also reportedly spoke to Pashinian by phone.